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An actual five-item wish list appears in a later SL Trib article, which carries the misleading headline "LDS Church chides gay group's news conference." Hiring the SL Trib as your PR firm doesn't get you very far either.

Is Affirmation distinguishing SSA from homosexuality? Typically, I think the Church attempts too.

Dave, Elder Holland's article was a welcome addition to some of the more positive and hopeful statements the Church has been making regarding same-gender attraction, but that article was not a Conference address. It was an Ensign feature that was kind of buried in the edition, and which most members of the Church who aren't affected personally in some way by the issue probably never read. A better example of a General Conference address speaking to the issue is Elder Oaks' "He Heals the Heavy Laden" which spent about a quarter of the talk addressing same-gender attraction specifically.

Thanks for the correction, Ty -- I updated the post to show that Elder Holland's remarks came in an Ensign article.

Rhetorical tactics aside, it seems like their requests are reasonable. 1 and 2 seem like they've been done before, but repetition might reinforce the point. As for 3 and 4, I don't really have an opinion. The Church can do as it pleases, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to want to meet with a general authority on a matter of mutual concern. 5, I think, is really the most important suggestion of all. The effectiveness of local leaders in promoting the mental and spiritual well-being of Gay saints and their families cannot be underestimated. As the tone and emphasis (and some would argue content) of the Church's position have changed, it is important that local leaders represent that position correctly and are equipped to deal with this issue with more than old pamphlets from President Kimball's era.

Nate, I thought the church just released a new pamphlet on homosexuality in the last 18 months or so?

As a follow-up to my previous post: The church issued a pamphlet dealing with the issue in late July, 2007. It's online at http://www.lds.org/topics/pdf/GodLovethHisChildren_04824_000.pdf.

JimD:

That's true--I was using pamphlets as an example, but it is an inapt one. My point was that there's a lot of evolution on how the Church has dealt with homosexuality, and it's important that the local leadership is following the Church's current policy and not past policies. Education and training will work better than anything in ensuring the local leadership is on the same page in regard to this issue.

Pres. Holland had a recent talk on the issue. It appears to have been introducing the pamphlet in question and the URL was in the Ensign. If it's the pamphlet I'm thinking of then it is God Loveth His Children.

To add LDS.org has a entry on the issue with lots of links to talks and so forth. It's featured reasonably centrally.

Some of this is a little silly. I have to wonder who is running the Church's newsroom. To insist that they have "always" intended to talk to Affirmation is ridiculous. Affirmation has been requesting an audience for years and until recently they were completely ignored.

Then the press release continues on to grouse about how the LDS Church was so flexible in postponing the date, just for Affirmation (note here: Picking a date for a meeting is usually a mutual decision). The Church offered a date and Affirmation officials suggested August 11 because they would all be in town for a conference. The leadership of this all volunteer organization had to fly themselves to SLC from several different states. Postponing a meeting where volunteers had to fly from at least three different states to arrive is not a particularly generous gesture from our church which takes in billions of dollars a year in tithing.

It may be that Fred Riley really was the only one qualified to meet with affirmation officials (and whatever happened to the other fellow who was to attend the meeting… did he take another assignment as well… is there no interim commissioner?). However, to any outside observer it smacks of political implications to cancel the meeting only after the Church has ordered its members to support proposition 8 in California.

Support for groups like affirmation is growing among active faithful LDS members as is clearly evidenced on websites like www.SigningForSomething.org and www.MormonsForMarriage.com. They are not as irrational as many of us would like to think. In fact, I’m becoming more and more concerned about the unfortunate political posturing of our own leaders.

Clark: I don't know if support for Affirmation is growing significantly among active faithful LDS, but I think certainly the sort of political posturing we saw with this news conference does nothing to play to LDS sympathies, especially when the Church IS apparently making a good-faith effort to meet with them. A reasonable delay (so that they can meet with someone other than a lame-duck department head) is, in my opinion, a gesture of good will that was not reciprocated.

I've a feeling that if the meeting had happened, we'd shortly be seeing public news conferences where Affirmation complained that their legitimate concerns were shunted off on a lame-duck, mid-level bureaucrat.

Is Affirmation distinguishing SSA from homosexuality? Typically, I think the Church attempts too [sic].

"SSA" is a term coined by evangelical anti-gay groups (and yes, followed verbatim by Evergreen and LDS leaders now), in order to make themselves sound "scientific." It is used specifically in order to categorize homosexuality as a "syndrome" or "disorder." Not one legitimate scholarly source has acknowledged this supposed condition of "same-sex attraction."

In addition, LDS leaders have followed the evangelical dictate by declaring that there simply is no such thing as a homosexual, that there are only "homosexual feelings" or "homosexual problems." It's tough to believe this is done by inspiration from deity, when it's taken verbatim from the same churches who condemn Mormonism as a satanic cult.

So, in answer to your question: Affirmation only "distinguishes SSA from homosexuality" in the sense that SSA is a fictitious diagnosis, whereas homosexuality is a highly-studied, long-recognized sexual orientation.

From the LDS-PR statement:
“It has always been the intent of the Church to engage in an open and honest discussion with Affirmation leaders to listen to their concerns. When the Church was originally approached by Affirmation, Church officials offered a much earlier meeting date. The meeting was put on hold until August at Affirmation’s request.

As others have noted, Affirmation is an entirely volunteer organization. The organization's leadership had to pay their own expenses, and planned to be in Salt Lake City in August, therefore, they asked that the meeting be held at that time. Sadly, LDS-PR now wishes to categorize this as Affirmation "delaying" the meeting.

Furthermore, LDS-PR has the temerity to refer to "when the [LDS?] church was originally approached by Affirmation." The LDS church was "originally approached by Affirmation years ago, and repeatedly. LDS leaders chose, until this year, to ignore the invitation entirely. Let's be honest about that, instead of posturing the LDS church as if it's leaders were ready all along to jump at the "original" invitation from Affirmation.

The [LDS, presumably] Church asks for the same courtesy as it hires a new director of Family Services, a position crucial to this conversation.

When LDS leaders "postponed" this meeting (did anyone NOT see this "postponement" coming, after Monson's call to arms over Proposition 8?), they gave a specific timeline of three to six months for their "search" for a new director of LDS Family Services. I'm sure it was strictly a coincidence that the announced timeline ensured that the meeting would take place after the November election (cough). In addition, why does the meeting need to take place with a counselling administrator, rather than a general authority?

"The issues surrounding same-gender attraction deserve careful attention, not public posturing.

Just to be clear, by issuing this statement, LDS-PR is unquestionably engaging in "public posturing" at least as much as Affirmation leaders are.

It appears from Affirmation’s actions today that it has opted for a public rather than a private exchange.”

Nevermind the fact that Affirmation formally asked that the meeting be with a general authority, and that it not be postponed, right? Apparently LDS-PR is free to be "public," but Affirmation leaders are to be demonized if they speak publicly?

The only mistake Affirmation leaders made in this whole exchange, is thinking that LDS leaders had the slightest intention of entering into a serious exchange and/or reaching out for true understanding.

Nick, why do all the representatives have to be there? Could a few engage in discussion? And exactly what do you see the discussion creating? Do you really think the brethren are completely ignorant of the issues? Do you think either side is suddenly going to change their views?

I guess I'm just curious as to the point of all this. I'm all for discussions as you know. But I just don't see the point here.

Clark, we're already talking about "a few" engaging in discussion. It's not as if Affirmation was trying to send a delegation of 300. Of course, there are always options such as a video link, which could help to overcome travel expenses, etc. It's important to note that Affirmation, unlike Evergreen, isn't being subsidized by the LDS church. The latter has cash to drop as an organization, while Affirmation leadership are footing their own individual bills.

I don't know that I've ever claimed, Clark, that LDS leaders are "completely ignorant of the issues." If I did claim such a thing, I would be wrong. On the other hand, I don't believe that LDS leaders are as completely informed of the issues as they may think (or as some may believe). If the recent press release is any indication, LDS leaders are obtaining much of their information on "the issues" from evangelical anti-gay groups and so-called "reparative therapy" providers (yes, I know that with regard to many cases, I'm being redundant here).

Clearly, the aim of some (definitely not all) Affirmation members is to bring about change in the LDS church's teachings and/or policies with regard to homosexuality. The reality, however, is that highly orthodox LDS (the pool from which most GAs seem to come) are unlikely to be influenced by those they see as vile sinners, incapable of receiving the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Affirmation isn't going to change the LDS church. In my own mind, Affirmation can best serve by working to build a relationship and dialogue with LDS leaders, to the point that they are seen as a useful first-hand resource on the issues. In a church that claims revelatory guidance in doctrine and policy, someone has to open the door, prompting leadership to question their traditional assumptions enough to ask for further revelation on the subject. From a faithful LDS perspective, this is what took place with regard to the extention of LDS priesthood to all worthy males--activists didn't "change" the policy, but they certainly got leaders thinking enough to seek further revelation, rather than simply relying on what Brigham Young or Bruce R. McConkie had already written.

This raises the obvious question, of course, of whether by holding a press conference such as this, Affirmation leaders are, in fact, building a relationship and dialogue. The question isn't as simple as it may initially appear. On the one hand, publicity of this kind will trigger the cultural "persecution complex" of many LDS members, making Affirmation "the enemy" and thwarting future communication. On the other hand,
useful dialogue requires mutual respect, and there are times that individuals or organizations need to speak up and insist on that mutuality.

Right now, I believe any fair observer has to admit that both sides are posturing. Both sides distrust the other, and frankly, both are being a bit manipulative right now, in trying to shape public perception. Adding to the mix, a newly-appointed managing bureaucrat will apparently be the LDS church's representative, which means he will almost certainly be extra-careful in everything he says in the meeting and/or reports back to leaders. The whole situation is fraught with huge challenges, most of which come down to a basic lack of mutual trust and respect.

I think you were on a roll until that last sentence, Nick. By trying to remain within the LDS orbit and working to establish dialogue with LDS leaders, I think Affirmation is showing a fair degree of trust and respect towards LDS leaders. By agreeing to meet with Affirmation and by showing admirable discretion in their public statements, LDS leaders are showing a degree of respect towards Affirmation.

I guess what I'm looking at is what possible change would result. You seem to hint at normalizing homosexual relations. I just think that's pretty wishful thinking. Short of that, looking at current statements by the Church and what they link to from lds.org I'm just not sure what more they can do beyond continuing to emphasize love.

That's what I meant by an impasse.

Now had you asked 10 years ago when the "it's just a choice" mindset was dominant you might have had a point. I just don't see that being taught now though.

Clark, I think there is more progress to be made. While there have been some recent public statements which acknowledge the possibility of biological/genetic factors in sexual orientation, young LDS are still taught within LDS culture to be ashamed of homosexual attraction. They are officially told that "some" won't be able to change their sexual orientation, but at the same time they are told that those who exercise sufficient faith, prayer, and effort can "overcome" homosexuality." The latter message is reinforced by counsellors at LDS Family Services, the vast majority of which work to convince clients that they can and should change their sexual orientation. That message is further reinforced when the LDS church provides financial and other institutional support to so-called "reparative therapy" organizations, such as Evergreen and NARTH, which teach that homosexuality is the result of dysfunctional families and supposed "gender confusion" (i.e., men not learning to be "masculine" enough, and women not learning to be "feminine" enough). This mixed message leads young gay LDS to condemn themselves, believing that if they continue to experience sexual/emotional attraction toward others of the same sex, they have failed to exercise enough faith, prayer and effort. While heterosexual LDS youth are taught to control their sexual thoughts, they are taught that those thoughts are normal, natural, healthy and good. Homosexual youth, on the other hand, become convinced that every fleeting sexual thought they have is evidence that they are degenerates who haven't "repented" enough to be acceptable to deity.

So what do these young men do? Some of them try to end their struggle, believing that once they're dead, they won't be gay anymore. Most desperately try to do everything they've been taught that righteous young men should do, including entering into heterosexual marriages. It's true that the LDS church now officially directs leaders not to counsel heterosexual marriage as a "cure" for homosexuality, but at the same time, the LDS church has used the Deseret News and LDS therapists' organizations (holding their conferences in LDS headquarters facilities) as venues to present young, very short-term (usually about three years) married couples at LDS therapists' conventions held in LDS-owned facilities, where gay LDS men claim to be successful in marriage to heterosexual LDS women. As a result, young LDS couples are heading to the temple, naively confident that even though one of them is gay, their righteous efforts will "overcome homosexuality," and they'll live happily ever after. In most cases, disaster ensues years down the road.

I believe, Clark, that these mixed messages fail to "emphasize love."

OK, I can see that.

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